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Senior College Football Columnist

Weekend Watch List: Arizona-Oregon might set new land-speed record; OU gets first test

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Rich Rodriguez drives his offense like he drives his Porsche. Punch the pedal and go.

Arizona's coach has three speeds for his offense: Fast, faster, fastest. It depends on the situation and the defense's stamina. Arizona can go from running you ragged to the football version of four corners.

It all depends on the whim of RichRod and his opponent this week, Oregon's Chip Kelly. They both like to -- shall we say -- use the diamond lane. Without a corporate sponsor to legitimize it or national network to pump it, WWL is going to call this week's Arizona-Oregon meeting The Fastest Game in the West. Make that The Fastest Game in the Country.

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No surprise. The two reigning maestros of the zone read spread option are off to perhaps the "fastest" starts of their careers. RichRod has the throttle wide open, averaging more than 93 plays per game, No. 3 nationally through three games. No. 3 Oregon and Kelly are 11th nationally, averaging more than 86 plays.

Both numbers are way above each coach's career bests. At least since 1999. WWL went back 13 years -- when Rodriguez was Clemson's offensive coordinator and Kelly was OC at New Hampshire -- to measure their offenses' plays per game. Kelly's high is 79.9 plays in '99 at New Hampshire. Rodriguez was able to squeeze off 77.5 plays per game in 2000 at Clemson.

Some perspective: The current national team average is 72 plays per game. Last year's national average for the season was 69.8 plays. That means Arizona is running 24 more plays per game -- about three touchdown drives' worth -- than last year's average team.

(Also, some clarification: To WWL's knowledge, RichRod doesn't own a Porsche but creating the same image with his SUV just didn't work.)

So, fast? Yeah, you might say that. Three of the top 11 offenses in plays per game are from the Pac-12: No. 3 Arizona, T-9th UCLA and No. 11 Oregon. After snapping it 102 times and getting 43 first downs against South Carolina State (both school records), Arizona is running 2.93 plays per minute, one every 20.4 seconds of possession. Speaking of TOP, it barely matters to these teams. Point-a-minute offense? Oregon is averaging almost two points per minute of possession (1.97).

You should not be surprised, then, that Kelly and Rodriguez met 13 years ago and started talking a shared philosophy. Little did they know it would spread like a virus.

"We have always kind of kept in touch," Rodriguez told TucsonCitizen.com. "I think we traded a lot of ideas. He got our film and we got his film. ... I think philosophically, Chip is probably the closest to what we believe in offensively and how to go about it than anyone else out there."

The philosophy eventually circled around. Kelly caught the eye of Mike Bellotti, who hired him to jumpstart the Ducks' offense in 2007. Scorched earth followed. Oregon has finished no lower than 12th the past five seasons. In its past 69 games, Oregon has averaged 489 yards per game.

Look for teams to continue to come from all over the country to visit Tucson and Eugene, learning how to drive a stick shift.

New term added to coaches' urban dictionary this week

Injury report (verb): To leave daily practice update in disgust after being asked about status of the team's starting center. Also, to distract a team from its purpose. Also, to confuse and deceive the public and bring undo attention and possible embarrassment to unpaid, amateur, scholarship student-athletes See: Kiffin, Lane. Colloquial: Considered a curse term by the American Football Coaches Association as in, "I'm not releasing the [bleep-bleeping] injury report. Origin: Stone age.

Overvalued

 Arkansas coming off last week's Rout at Razorback. The world will be watching to see if there is any quit left in the Hogs. There was last week, according to quarterback Tyler Wilson, who has been cleared for Rutgers.

 Oklahoma against Kansas State. Not that the Wildcats will necessarily win, but have you heard anything about anything about the Sooners lately? Here we are in Week 4 and OU has played two games against air (Texas-El Paso, Florida A&M).

OU must get about the business of proving it is still a national contender. Truth is, we don't know yet and may not know for a while. Oklahoma has another bye after this week before going to Texas Tech and then Dallas for the Red River Shootout.

Just throwing it out there: Kansas State just might have the better quarterback in this game, Collin Klein over Landry Jones.

Undervalued

 Clemson against Florida State. You know where WWL stands on the subject. Here's where it gets strange: Clemson has more playmakers than FSU, maybe more than any program in the country -- Tajh Boyd, Andre Ellington, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins.

If the Tigers are going to pull the upset, they must get out front early, take Doak Campbell out of it and score 40. At least. Clemson is capable. Watch the Tigers' press coverage on FSU receivers and their ability to stop the run. The Tigers are 84th in that category.

 Geno Smith against Maryland. How would you like to be the offensively challenged Terps facing the current Heisman favorite at the top of his game? Smith has thrown as many incompletions as touchdowns (nine).

"Their quarterback -- you just can't sack the guy," James Madison coach Mickey Matthews said after last week's loss to the Mountaineers. "He's quicker than our defensive linemen.

 Notre Dame against Michigan. By the end of the day the Irish will have played an option offense (Navy), a passing offense (Purdue), a top 10 defense (Michigan State) and perhaps the nation's best rushing quarterback (Denard Robinson) in the first four weeks.

Yes, the Irish will have been through a car wash without getting wet if they beat Michigan. Revenge game at home. Three straight losses to Michigan. Keep D-Rob in the pocket. We'll begin to find out if Notre Dame is BCS worthy. And by handle, I mean sweep the state of Michigan. That's better than Mitt Romney will do.

 Missouri's defense headed to South Carolina. The unit has been surprisingly resilient the past two weeks, hanging in against Georgia and Arizona State. Mizzou is fourth in the SEC in total defense and 20th nationally. WWL is fascinated to see how that matches up with Marcus Lattimore and Connor Shaw getting back in the lineup.

 Auburn against LSU. If you're thinking upset at Jordan-Hare, think again. Auburn has scored more than two touchdowns against SEC teams just once in its past eight games. LSU has allowed single digits in eight of its past 17 overall.

Big Blew

Sometimes simple is best in describing Kentucky's state of mind. The Wildcats get Florida, which it has lost to 25 straight times, following the embarrassment of Western Kentucky.

Rematch fatigue?

It doesn't have to be Alabama and LSU again, although it looks that way. Seven of the top 10 teams in the AP Top 25 have not won a national championship since at least 1999. Four of the seven have never won a title -- Stanford, West Virginia, South Carolina and Oregon.

Smack talk

Now it's just getting ridiculous. Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart's "baloney" line was amusing, but Florida Atlantic's Cory Henry took Alabama tweaking a step further this week.

FAU's Cory Henry said 'Bama "ain't what people think. They're good and everything but they can be beat too."

If you're talking about the 50½-point line then, yes, that's an issue. But WWL is beginning to think that Alabama is so good and defeat is so inevitable that opponents are just getting bored. So they lash out.

Maybe Henry is all full of Sun Belt success against the SEC this season. Two of the Sun Belt's six wins ever over the SEC have come this month. (Wins over Texas A&M and Missouri came long before those schools joined the SEC.)

 Also, this tweet from former Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen about current Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease: "He's freaking crazy and was brutal [as OC] at UK when I was there. The good thing about Pease at UF is now we can shut them down."

Speaking to the Ocala (Fla.) Gator Club in the offseason, Pease was quoted as saying, "[Lorenzen's remarks are] good for about two extra launch plays, trying to get 50 points on those guys when they come to campus."

Before you look it up, WWL already did. Florida last scored 50 in the SEC against Vanderbilt in 2010.

Weekly Big Ten airing of the grievances

How many ways are there to say the Large Dozen is bad? (Cuing Ed McMahon offstage bellowing, "How, uh, bad is it?")

Glad you asked, Wolverine breath ...

 The Big Ten is so bad that the conference as a whole, together, as one has beaten four BCS-conference schools three weeks into the season -- Syracuse, Boston College, Vanderbilt and California.

 The Big Ten is so bad it has two quarterbacks in the top 35 in pass efficiency, Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Illinois' Reilly O'Toole. The Big 12 has five quarterbacks in the top six.

Stat package

Alabama (vs. Florida Atlantic) is seeking its third consecutive shutout, something it hasn't done since 1966. That was the year 'Bama was denied a third consecutive championship by voters who, it is believed, penalized the program for the state's civil rights abuses. ... Texas Tech (bye) has punted twice in three games. That's Leachian. ... Iowa State (bye) plays eight of the top 16 teams in yards per play. ... Only three teams in FBS have not allowed a sack -- Middle Tennessee, Air Force and Oklahoma State. ... Wisconsin (vs. Texas El-Paso) has yet to force a turnover. Well, unless you count firing the offensive line coach. ... Miami's Al Golden has played 14 true freshmen this season. Not a good thing headed to Georgia Tech. ... Lane Kiffin is 7-3 in games after losses in his career.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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